Why we are not celebrating

The same-sex marriage and adoption bill has been approved in the Assembly and the Senate in France and is due to return to the Assembly for a final reading and voting of the amendments made by the Senate on April 17th. It is highly likely to be voted into a law. So why are we not celebrating?

Our president committed himself in his presidential campaign to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption, and it was clearly stated in his electoral platform, which is why his election renewed the LGBT community’s hope for more equality. It was first announced that the law as to be voted before 2013, but all of a sudden, minor political figures and completely unknown characters emerged to wage a ar against marriage equality. Among those one could find Christine Boutin a struggling Christian politician whose religious ideas always kept away from real debates, French people being strongly in favor of the separation of Church and State. But on this precise issue, she received backing from members of the former right-wing government who also stand against marriage equality (such as JF. Copé for instance.) But perhaps more surprisingly, the leading figure of the movement is Frigide Barjot ( a pseudonym that would translate “Frigid Crazy” a pun on “Brigitte Bardot”), a born-again catholic and stand-up comedian of little fame of whom most French people never heard before.

In reaction to the proposition of “marriage for everyone”, she created the “demonstration for everyone” and invited families to march the streets of Paris yelling that the only possible family was that of a father and a mother and their children. She took great care to find the possibly only gay man in France against marriage equality and flaunt him everywhere she could, telling everyone who wanted to listen that she was NOT a homophobe. And she managed to get media attention on their movement. Their demonstration gathered more people than the pro-marriage-equality demonstrations.

A notable shift in rhetoric appeared at he beginning of the year: extreme groups from the right end of the political spectrum joined the Demonstration For Everyone such as the GUD, a far-right violent association, or even the last few French royalists (yes, we do have some).

An image posted by the GUD during the demonstrations against marriage equality in March.

I found myself, as many others, removing anti-marriage equality stickers and fliers scattered all around my neighborhood, and not turning on the TV so as not to hear the homophobic puke of Barjot, Boutin and friends. But it all came too late, the demonstrations against marriage-equality have legitimized homophobia in French media and society. And the voting of the law in both houses of the French parliament has heightened tensions.

On Sunday, April 7th, a man was beaten in Paris 19th district for walking arm in arm with his boyfriend (homophobic attacks remain extremely rare in Paris).

Homophobic attacks, both physical and verbal, have increased in 2012. The LGBT centered in Paris was plastered with poster against marriage-equality on the day before their Spring Association-Meeting . After the law was voted by the Senate a few days ago, Frigide Barjot declared that “the President want[ed] blood, their [would] be blood.” Yesterday morning, a Representative who voted for the bill was “woken up” at his family home at 6:30 by anti-marriage equality demonstrators. This morning, a famous LGBT rights advocate who was supposed to give a speech in Nantes was stalked by the same movement who managed to block her train for a whole hour and followed her the whole day, shouting their usual creed (only a man and a woman can form a “real family”) . This morning on Facebook, the boss a famous gay bar in Paris issue an open letter to Frigide Barjot who used to caller herself his friend, in which explains to her how he now has to recommend his patrons to take a taxi instead of walking home or even taking the metro.

The government has decided to speed up the second reading of the bill and have it at an earlier date, which angered the anti-gay-rights demonstrators ho had planned a new march on the 26th. Their leaders insist that they do not associate with far-right groups, and still claim that they are NOT homophobic. However, latent homophobia has come to the open in France, and many LGBT, me, my friends, strangers, are voicing their worries and the beginning of a real fear. Some of us already stopped showing even the slightest signs of affection in public; and yesterday I thought twice before deciding to go gay-clubbing with a friend.

The legal fight is perhaps won already, but the climate of violence is definitely noxious for us all. I wish the government would apply the law which forbids homophobic speeches, or the law which forbids the harassment of public figures which we have seen over the last days. We need both marriage-equality and protection against the dangerous behavior that the anti-gay-rights demonstrators have “normalized” over the last months.

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